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Hockey

Florida Panthers

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats

Sports Illustrated Ranking: 19

By Tim Crothers

 
1998-99 Leaders
Stat Leader No.
Goals
Assists
Points
+/-
Shots
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
Faceoff Pct.
Hits
PP Pts.
SH Pts.
Ray Whitney
Ray Whitney
Ray Whitney
Jaroslav Spacek
Viktor Kozlov
Rob Niedermayer
Robert Svehla
Kirk Muller
Rob Niedermayer
Ray Whitney
Radek Dvorak
26
38
64
+15
209
21.3
24.8
49.1
152
24
4

Sports Illustrated Pavel Bure personally recharged South Florida's passion for hockey last season by scoring 13 goals in just 11 games after his January trade to the Panthers. So it's no wonder that Bure's summer rehabilitation from season-ending knee surgery was chronicled with tabloid intensity. There hasn't been this much hand-wringing in Miami over a Russian rocket since the Cuban missile crisis.

Bure's right knee is the fragile joint upon which the Panthers' future rests. In an otherwise disappointing season Florida was 5-4-2 with Bure in the lineup last year, and his presence has dictated a Panthers' about-face from a defensive style to an aggressive attack. "We need him to be a superstar, and he wants to be our superstar," coach Terry Murray says. "Pavel's résumé shows that he's a player who thrives on huge expectations."

A new five-year, $47.5 million contract should ensure that expectations are suitably large. Bure's ability to meet them depends on his knee, however. His rehab is on schedule, and at times during training camp he skated as explosively as ever, yet he didn't participate in a preseason game. "There have been times when I forget about my knee and then I have to stop myself, saying, Take it easy," Bure says. "It feels good, but I want to take one step at a time because I'm looking forward to playing a whole season."

To Florida general manager Bryan Murray the addition of Bure is the key element of a team makeover he calls "passing the torch." After the Panthers missed the playoffs the past two years, Murray dispatched several aging veterans during the off-season to give more ice time to promising younger players like forwards Radek Dvorak, Viktor Kozlov, Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish. Now only four players remain from the team that reached the 1997 Stanley Cup finals. "When you're losing there's always that temptation to trade away young players," Bryan Murray says, "but we've made them the centerpiece of our team along with Bure and told them it's their responsibility to lead us back into the playoffs."

That message is clear to every Panther because it's in plain English. After a 1998-99 season marked by poor team chemistry during which players from seven countries spoke a cacophony of languages in the Florida dressing room, Terry Murray has instituted an English-only rule to bridge the communication gap between the team's European and North American cliques. If Bure can stay healthy and score his customary 50 goals, then this monolingual bunch should win the weak Southeast Division. If he doesn't, the Panthers will be ordinary, no matter how you say it.

Issue date: October 4, 1999

ALSO:
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings


BRIGHT SPOTS   GRAY AREAS
  • Despite low offensive numbers last season, Florida has a nice group of young talent in Mark Parrish, Oleg Kvasha and Jaroslav Spacek. Get Pavel Bure healthy and continue to get Ray Whitney and Viktor Kozlov playing over their heads and this offense has some spark.
  • The Southeast Division is the weakest in the league, but the winner is guaranteed at least a No. 3 seed in the first round.
  •  
  • Pavel's knee, and his overall durability. In the last five seasons he's played more than 63 games only once and averaged 43 in that span.
  • After having John Vanbiesbrouck as the backbone for so long, the Panthers are now working with Carolina hand-me-downs Trevor Kidd and Sean Burke.
  • The leadership issue always remains with this team. Captain Scott Mellanby is a team guy, so is new acquisition Lance Pitlick . . . after that?
  • People, Places and Things
    GM: Bryan Murray
    Coach: Terry Murray; 2nd season (30-34-18); 10th overall (311-232-76)
    Assistants: Slavomir Lenar; Billy Smith
    Captain: Scott Mellanby
    Last year: 30-34-18 (17th overall)
    Playoffs: None
    PP: 22nd (13.4%)
    PK: 22nd (81.9%)

    Get The Highlighter
    Sat., Oct. 2: Home opener vs. Washington.
    Fri., Nov. 5: Pavel Bure returns to Vancouver, where he'll have to play through the catcalls.
    Sat., Jan. 1: Ah, what better way to ring in the new millennium than Tampa Bay at Florida?

    Notable Number
    350: Man-games played by rookies last season, the most in the NHL.

    Quoteworthy
    "Like Pavel Bure can't score all the goals, you can't just have two or three guys be the leaders. Everyone's got to be a leader. And, we're such a young team that I've talked to some of the younger guys about it. Don't be shy to step forward and be a leader." -- Scott Mellanby



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